Report: Positive relationships can lead to better injury reporting in construction
"Under-reporting of injuries and illnesses can compromise the accuracy of surveillance data, thus hindering the proper and timely identification of areas for organizational or industry interventions," the report says. "Additionally, unreported injuries can result in delays of treatment, which place a significant burden on the workers, their families, companies, health care systems, and national economies."
The study, Construction Workers' Reasons for Not Reporting Work-Related Injuries: An Exploratory Study, appeared in the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Ergonomics. The researchers conducted 90-minute focus groups with 27 union construction workers who had at least one self-reported work-related injury in the past two years to find out why workers don't report injuries to their employers.
"Through a consensus-building format, the two groups identified the following reasons for not reporting a work-related injury to their employer," the report says. "A, 'I am afraid I will not be hired again by the contractor if I file a worker's compensation claim.' B, 'I want the safety incentive for no lost work time.' C, 'I accept that injury and pain are a part of the job.' D, 'I'm worried about being labeled as a complainer by my coworkers or supervisors.' E, 'I'm concerned about being teased by coworkers for not being tough enough.' And F, 'the paperwork and process for filing workers' compensation claims is complicated.'"
Additionally, the researchers analyzed the responses from 135 workers who answered a paper survey. Those workers had been in their construction-related jobs for an average of 21 years and been union members for an average of 14 years.
Of that group, the five most commonly endorsed reasons for not reporting injuries were:
- My injury was small, so I don't need to report it.
- I accept that pain is a natural part of my job.
- Home treatment, anti-inflammatories, pain medication, heat, etc., are sufficient to deal with my problems.
- I am not sure if my pain or symptoms are the result of work activities.
- I am afraid I won't be hired again by the same or another contractor if I file a claim.
"Based on the results of this study, we propose a number of strategies to overcome these reasons for not reporting and to encourage workers to report injuries," the authors said. "One way for construction companies to alleviate fears of negative consequences and, thus, promote reporting of injuries is through the development and cultivation of a climate of open communication with a focus on problem- solving and learning, i.e., a positive error management climate."
Interventions that target different levels of management aiming to improve their error management climate is a first step, the researchers said. For example, interventions for foremen can focus on training them to build positive relationships and trust with workers through positive recognition and constructive feedback and encouraging open communication about errors and near misses.
Positive relationships between supervisors and subordinates can promote positive reactions toward safety incentives, the researchers said. Group cohesiveness, safety-oriented norms, and task interdependence had the "strongest effect on reactions to safety incentives at the group level. This suggests that the effectiveness of safety incentive programs depends on the amount of influence workers have on each other's rewards. In the construction industry, these group characteristics are likely to be found, which suggests that safety incentive programs may be applicable for this industry."
By Nancy Grover
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 28, 2013
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